When it comes to the most educated state in America, Massachusetts, pro-casino legislators and casino advocates must have some of the lowest IQs in the nation. A recent article in the Miami Herald said that the law for casino operation needs to be revised based on several flaws in the existing structure. Those areas that deal with the amount of winnings to be reported as income tax, qualifications for hiring of casino employees, and waiting for a State Supreme Court ruling must be dealt with before moving forward.
Any gambler who has been waiting for the first casino to open in Plainfield, has to be resigned to another year of waiting. Many have given up hope completely. Between the political wrangling and now the legislative issues it is absolute chaos. Stay with me here.
Let’s take the last area first. The Massachusetts Supreme Court is deciding whether to hold another referendum to repeal the state’s casino law. So all this money spent by the state to hold hearings, collect casino application deposits, plan, and bid on casinos to be built at all may end up a massive waste of time as well. This point is aggravating enough for any would-be player. For every person who pays taxes in Massachusetts it is like having your pocket picked. And you can count on the anti-gambling groups to pick up on this chaos as evidence to other states to not even begin the casino licensing process because it is a waste of time and money.
The second part, determining the qualifications of who can be hired at a casino, excluded people who have criminal records. The law has to be revised because it applies to all ex-convicts regardless of how long ago the crime was committed and includes petty things down to traffic violations. For a state of supposedly smart people, this thinking is so antiquated it actually upsetting when they are just trying to get their hands on data and potential profiling. Maybe they should have talked to the casino owners and builders before drafting the legislation, because it is the casino operator who stands to lose if they hire the wrong people. Add to that modern technology (did they ever watch the movie Casino?) and it is apparent the least of the problems is who the casino hires. Anyway, they want to change the law and allow a more flexible method of determining who can work.
Taxable winnings set by the federal government is $1,200 and this is accepted by virtually every state. The Massachusetts law is currently anything over $600.
But the simplest part of the law they want revised is the amount of winnings a player can win before being subject to Federal income tax. That amount set by the federal government is currently $1,200 and is accepted by virtually every state. The Massachusetts law is currently $600. Really. Where does the rest of it go? It can be asked why did the law pass with this $600 limit, go ahead, getting a reasonable answer seems out of the question…
There is even more to the story though. Now that there is a possible delay, or even repeal, to the law. Owners who have bids in are now trying to have other changes made, guaranteeing another year of a statewide gaming vacuum. Wynn and MGM resorts are seeking a guarantee that the amount they will have to give to the state will not change over the span of the 15 year casino license. With the possibility of the casino law being repealed, both also want their money back should that possibility become a reality. And finally, they are requesting future financial protections in the event a casino is built on an Indian reservation. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said that these and other recommendations for changes to the law could be addressed as matters of administration rather than law.
The question from outside observers of this entire state operated casino situation is if anyone who is running the show knows what is going on. Certainly there is a certain amount of political shenanigans to be expected – thank you Boston. And there will be oversights on certain matters since most are new to the process. But there are enough states who have successfully created and administered state operated casinos that can be used as a model. Though far from Boston, New York is actually a neighboring state that has implemented the law and is currently expanding their state run operation.
The future of casinos in Massachusetts may come to a sudden closure if the state supreme court allows a new referendum. It is hard to believe anyone in the political environment wants another delay and round of administrative headaches. Another year of waiting will discourage most current players, who will flee to New York or Connecticut to satisfy their need to gamble just as they have been. Assessing the current situation, it appears that Massachusetts will be the model for how not to start a state-operated gaming system.